Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pelham’s 2016 Residential Taxes Increases by 2.4%

Two months ago I wrote about how Council approved our 2016 Operating Budget. Since the Province issued the property tax rate for Educational purposes last week, I can now provide you with an update on the total 2016 residential property tax bill.

You will recall that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not solely based on the Market Value Assessment of your property; we multiply your assessment by each of these three tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) – the Provincial body that sets a value your home and property – re-evaluated and assessed all properties in the Province as of January 1, 2012. While this amount will be used as the value of your home in 2016, MPAC phases in any assessment increases evenly over a four-year period. The Town uses that changing assessment value when we calculate your property taxes each year.

When Town Council approved our 2016 Operating Budget in February, we didn’t know neither the Regional nor the Provincial rates.

Now that the Region approved the property tax rates and ratios last month and that the Province set their rate last week, we know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (valued at $309,200) in Pelham will be 2.4%.

Please note that this 2.4% is the “pocket-book” increase – the amount it cost an average residential property owner by adjusting for the average MPAC increase.

(I am sure that you would be interested to know that approximately 1.1% of this 2.4% is attributable to the one-time increase for the Pelham Community Centre.)

How do we measure whether that amount is “affordable” or not?

One independent way to judge whether Pelham’s taxes are “affordable” or not, is to compare them with inflation. For example, the Bank of Canada calculates that, over the last 10 years, inflation increased the value of goods and services by 17.7%. Over the same period, Pelham’s combined taxes for the average residential property in Pelham increased by 17.4% -- slightly less than inflation. And, this includes the amount already included in the Town’s 2016 budget to help fund the Pelham Community Centre.

Pelham Council and I continue to direct staff to ensure that we only minimally impact you and other property tax-payers while we increase the level and quality of services to the Town.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Community Centre Plan Approved in Principle

At our regular meeting last week, Council received all the information about the Pelham Community Centre that was presented during our special March 22 meeting. That special meeting last month included presentations from the architect with the design and elevations, the construction manager reviewing the construction costs, and staff with details about financing.

The Architects presented an elegant yet very efficient design that includes adaptable and multi-purpose community spaces, a double-gymnasium (dividable into four sections), a double arena (main arena with 1000 seats; second with less than 100 seats), an indoor walking/running track, a concession area, change rooms and washrooms, and an atrium / lobby area.

Based on an item-by-item-review of the design and informed by their experience on more than 30 community facilities, Ball Construction estimated the construction costs at $32.5 million. The construction managers also pegged total project costs – including design, furniture, fixtures, permits – at $36.2 million.

Staff stated that the Community Centre will cost $46.67 for an average residential property (assessed at $309,200) or 3.44% on the 2016 Pelham portion of the tax bill only. That amount will allow the Town to purchase a 30-year debenture of $9.07 million from Infrastructure Ontario. Since Council already approved project funds in our 2016 Budget, the Town will not require any further property tax increases to build the Centre beyond this year. The Town will fund the remaining costs through development charges, East Fonthill land sales, and fundraising.

Last Monday, Council received all this information and approved the plans “in principle.” We also directed staff to tender for the design / build of the electrical and mechanical components of the facility – subject to final approval by Council – so that we might not hold up the project. Finally, Council also directed staff to organize a public meeting on April 25 so that people wishing to make formal presentations about the plan can do so. Council will consider those presentations and a comprehensive staff report so that we might make a final determination that night.

So that you and your friends and neighbours can become better informed about the project, the Town will be hosting open houses on Saturday, April 16 Fire Station #2 (Fenwick) from 10AM to noon and at Fire Station #1 (Fonthill) from 2PM to 4PM. The Architect, Construction Manager, Town Staff, volunteer Architectural Design Advisory Committee members and Councillors will all be available at the open houses to speak with you.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to check out the Town’s recently revised webpage about the Community Centre at The page includes information about the plans, the costs, the financing, and answers to questions that people may have about the project. The page also includes the views of the volunteer members of the Architectural Design Advisory Committee. Please check it out at your convenience so that you may know more about this very important and exciting project for our Town.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Answering Questions About Pelham Community Centre

Last week I wrote about the elegant design and affordable financing plan for the Pelham Community Centre. Since then, some folks asked me to report again about the projected operating costs and basis for a double arena.

Operating Costs:
Last Fall, Staff presented a very detailed pro forma that estimates that the Town can operate the Pelham Community Centre for an operating subsidy of less than $200,000 per year. (Lacking any energy efficiencies or operational synergies, our existing 40-year-old arena requires a $100,000 annual operating subsidy.)

The Architect and Construction Manager included the latest energy efficiency innovations – like an eco-chiller for heat exchange and LED lights – and took care to minimize wasted space while making the Centre’s layout very functional.

The facilities in some other communities include pools or fitness areas which are very expensive to operate and maintain. Further, many other facilities lack a compact design or use older technologies. Others also include debt servicing costs into reported operating budgets, making direct cost comparisons difficult.

Double Arena:
In early-2014, LeisurePlan recommended replacing the existing single arena on Haist Street with a new double arena in the East Fonthill area. Further, they recommended designing for two arenas but with a phased build – building one arena first, and construct the second pad after 2023/24 when sustaining demand developed.

As soon as the consultant released the report, arena users and community members questioned the completeness of the participation numbers used in the report.

Then, in 2015, the Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) recommended that the Town re-evaluate the business case for building a double arena during the initial build. In addition to concerns about not including all the current demand, ADAC expressed concerns with the overall cost and design implications of phased construction. For example, since they couldn’t easily phase-in electrical and mechanical systems and since the initial build would need “temporary” walls or future connections, the capital cost differential for phasing would be minimal.

In June 2015, LeisurePlan updated their previous projections by considering missing information and additional demand from existing arena ice-users (18-20 hours/week). They concluded that “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” and therefore recommended that the Town “should consider the provision of a second ice pad by 2018/19.”

In July 2015, Council agreed with this recommendation and directed that the design include two arenas.

You can review information about this very important and exciting project at Town Hall and Pelham Libraries or at And, please plan to attend the Open Houses on Saturday, April 16, to speak with the Architect, Construction Manager, Town Staff, volunteer Architectural Design Advisory Committee members and Councillors.